Qatar’s telecoms regulator Supreme Council for Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR) has extended the closing date for applications for the country’s second fixed line network operating licence to 17 April following requests from bidders, reports the Gulf Times. ictQATAR executive director William Fagan said the winner of the beauty contest is expected to be announced in May. Eight international telecoms operators have registered their interest in applying for Qatar’s second national operator licence: Bahrain’s Batelco, Jordan Telecom Group, Verizon Communications (US), Vodafone Group (UK), AT&T (US), a subsidiary of the UK’s BT Group, Italy’s Eutelia and PCCW (Hong Kong). Fagan also told Gulf Times that the new concession will include a permit to provide WiMAX wireless broadband services, because ‘Qatar is too small to have a separate WiMAX licensee…to compete with two fixed line operators.’ He also said that the regulator expects the new operator to roll out both fibre-optic and WiMAX infrastructure, and added that incumbent telco Qatar Telecom (Qtel) can also offer WiMAX, having been allocated the required wireless spectrum.
In related news, Qtel has recently formed a joint venture company, called wi-tribe, with Saudi Arabia’s ATCO, to provide WiMAX services outside Qatar. Qtel has a 70% stake in wi-tribe, its chief operating officer, Sheikh Fahad bin Jassim al-Thani, told Gulf Times. Besides planned WiMAX deployments in Jordan and Pakistan, wi-tribe is also looking at other markets in the Middle East and North Africa, Sheikh Fahad said.